By Henry Akubuiro 

Oluwafemi Otoki has established his strokes as a calling to rescue nature, as he declared that he has one desire as a painter: to document as many as possible sceneries of the natural world for posterity. 

To broaden his scope in nature painting, Otoki is showing a solo exhibition, “This Land Is Not For Sale”, from Saturday, March 19-28, 2022, at Signature Beyond Art Gallery, 107, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. Nature changed, energised and inspired him to document all he had observed on canvas. 

From his early focus on painting miniature landscape works, Otoki gradually developed his technique to create larger works as he travelled more extensively to rural communities in Nigeria. For his passion, he started studying, sketching and painting landscapes with vivid and expansive depictions of natural scenery found in the Southwest states of Nigeria, particularly Ekiti and Ondo.

“Nature speaks to me and I believe there is a lot to explore, discover and learn from it,” Otoki stated ahead of the exhibition.  “I do this in my own way, working hard to create paintings that speak to me and others about the beauty that exists in and around us.” He disclosed that his inspiration comes from God, seeing himself blessed and complementing creation to project the glory of God.

Otoki has been described as an artist whose choice of realism stands out from the crowded space of hyperrealism. One of Otoki’s colleagues, Ike Chiemezie Gerald, noted that Otoki “has chosen not to dwindle his practice and career down the common lane of photocopying, typical of sample paintings by certain artists in Nigeria whose art, especially landscapes, could sarcastically be described as an extension of photographic renditions without brush strokes.” 

In his Foreword for the catalogue of the exhibition, Gerald explained Otoki’s choice of the theme: “The technical resolution by the artist can be interpreted metaphorically in the expression, This Land is Not for Sale, a caveat emptor, intelligently structured.” 

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Gerald noted that the theme “introduces the eccentricity in the artist’s dialect in terms of composition, colour and texture approach, with his lavishly elaborate strokes and vibrant colours which tend to invoke in the art seers the living memory and impression of Monet’s execution of the Lilly series for instance.” Otoki, according to Gerald, presents that “standard as an afirmation of peculiarity in approach and professional identity.”

Otoki’s “This Land is Not for Sale”, though used as a metaphor, is a fundamental expression in Nigerian Pop culture that alerts people to be mindful of fraudulent activities of impostors claiming to be investors, both in transactional and non-transactional associations, Gerald argued. 

“The artist in his ingenuity of thoughts, therefore, has decided to play around this concept in order to capture the attention of his audience getting them to look past the mediocrity of substandard presentations of landscape paintings.” Otoki’s painting, he insisted, derives from “ways that encourage Plato’s mimetic theory, which argues for the uselessness of art.”  Gerald said that the exhibition hopes to establish a common hub of transaction between artists, art seers and collectors of outdoor paintings.

 Oluwafemi Otoki, born in 1968, attended Yaba College of Technology, where he obtained Ordinary National Diploma (OND) and Higher National Diploma (HND) Painting in 1987 and 1992 respectively.

In 2010, he painted portraits of the Military Administrator of Adamawa state, Air Vice Marshall Gregory Agboneni, and the secretary general of the NYSC (National Youth Services Corps); and he also executed a commissioned work for the NYSC secretariat in Yola. He was presented with the Adamawa State Government award for exemplary services by the Government and people of Adamawa State, in 1994. In 2003, he recieved a certifcate of achievement from the Ohio State University for completion of the International Art and Culture Summer Workshop.

He belongs to several professional bodies such as Society of Nigerian Artists and The Creative Chambers. Oluwafemi believes there is a lot to explore. discover and learn from nature. His greatest aspiration is to be one of the foremost landscape painters in the world and project a positive image of the African artist globally.

 Among his last exhibitions are Flower Blossom (1992). Happenings of Our Time at Russian Cultural Centre Lagos (1992). Family Ties at National Museum Lagos (1996). Trade Wind of Our Time Leventis Foundation (1998). Millstones at Na- tional Teatre Lagos (2002). Strokes of Peace, Life Strokes Art Gallery Ikoyi Lagos (2003). Some Names at Nimbus Art Centre, sponsored by British Council Nigeria (2004).